During WW1 over 300 British and Commonwealth Soldiers were shot for desertion or cowardice – often having spent many months fighting for their homeland. They had little opportunity for defence. Many of them were little older than schoolboys. Most would be suffering from what we now know to be a very debilitating illness, now known widely as post-traumatic stress disorder. The memorial commemorating their sacrifice at the National Memorial Arboretum, is truly stunning. It is set at the most easterly point of the grounds, so that it is the first place on the site to catch the dawn’s light. It comprises a statue by Andy Decomyn, modelled on Private Herbert Burden aged 17, who was shot at Ypres in 1915; arranged behind him are stakes, each bearing the name of one of the soldiers shot at dawn, set to resemble the style of a Greek theatre, symbolising the tragedy of their deaths.
It wan’t until 2006, after a protracted campaign, that these men were posthumously pardoned.